What does Head Nodding mean?

by Christine Kosicki
(Ireland)

Yippy, look who's coming!

Yippy, look who's coming!

What is a horse telling me when he nods his head up and down when he sees me?

Answer:

We would need to take into account the specifics of what’s going on in the environment (and the meaning of your visit) when the horse nods his head to be accurate of its meaning. For every body language of the horse there are always more than one meaning that’s why we need to know exactly the circumstances that surround the action.

If your horse is looking at you like in the above picture while noticing you coming and then starts to nod, he’s likely just showing how pleased he is about your visit! How wonderful! A learned response on their part since often when we first approach our horses it’s with a kind word, stroke on the neck and if a goody is involved then whoolah, a learned (and possibly anxious) response would be created because of your gesture.

Does the nodding stop once you are closer to the horse? And/or after his presents is acknowledged? Are there other horses in the vicinity? Does it feel like he is anxious to get something from you like food? Is the nodding done slowly or is it quick and thrustful? Does the head move in a circular motion or just up and down? Every small movement can add to the meaning.

Providing it feels to you like something comforting rather than surprising, it sounds to me that your horse is simply glad and anxious about seeing you! You must be nice to hang out with! :0)

Cheers,
Elaine

Comments for What does Head Nodding mean?

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Aug 17, 2010
Horse Nodding
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for featuring my question on your web page. The horses in question are a mare and a foal and I speak to them gently and always have carrots!!! Needless to say a pat on the neck goes without saying. I don't own my two horsey friends but their owner uses a paddock I have for grazing and I so love the fact that they are happy to see me and they always sooth my anxious mind when necessary and make the world a better place.

I love the concept of taining horses naturally and wish you well. All animals are a gift and horses have a unique and spiritural presence. It is truly a pleasure to be in their company and I only wish that cruelty and mismanagement of horses and all animals could be tacked world wide, but sadly no doubt that will not be the case. And for those among us who do not rate animals little do they know how much they are missing, it is their loss.

Continued success and I will continue to enjoy your website and the horses I am provileged to meet.

Best regards.

Christine Kosicki
Billeragh East, Araglen, Kilworth, Co Cork. Ireland

Oct 01, 2010
head nodding
by: Anonymous

we have 4 horses that have been together for over 10 years. One nods his head--sometimes non stop for many minutes for no apparent reason. Perhaps he's eating or just standing soaking up the sun. He has the same quiet, consistent environment as the others. He's not a particularly anxious horse and this has been going on for a number of years. He does not nod or head shake when being ridden--easy trail rides only. Any ideas?

Oct 02, 2010
Head Nodding
by: Elaine Polny

The part about nodding for several minutes has me a bit concerned. That seems extreme. But I don't have enough information surrounding exactly when he does this and how often to make an informed decision. If it happens most when he eats, then I would consider having his teeth checked. Rather than estimating the time, I would count the number of nods and make a mental note of that.
If he is is great health, then it could be just a learned behavior and if it is done around feeding the horses it would be a signal for them to back off his dinner plate!

Jun 08, 2013
Other meanings?
by: nickie

ok so this is when I am visiting the horse. I was petting him and loving him up when he started to nod his head like a furious up and down and he layed his ears back against his head like what they do when they are mad and want to buck. The movement did not end untill I backed away from him. What was that about? Did I take the right staps moving away from the horse or could I have stayed and not been in any danger?

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